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What is asbestosis, and when does it appear in the body?

Asbestos is a well-known word to many; it's a building material that has been linked to types of cancer. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has determined that if you're exposed to asbestos fibers, you could suffer from cancer or asbestosis as a result. Because of this, no worker should be exposed without his or her knowledge, and it's required that all exposures be as limited as possible.

Asbestosis doesn't typically appear until 10 to 40 years following exposure. That can make it hard to recognize initially, but there are some symptoms. They include:

1. A shortness of breath.2. Dry, persistent coughs.3. Clubbing of the fingertips and toes.4. Tightness or pain in the chest.5. A loss of appetite with weight loss.

The disease manifests due to being exposed to airborne asbestos fibers. They become trapped in the alveoli. As the alveoli are irritated, they are scarred. Over time, the lungs become stiff and breathing becomes more difficult. Those who smoke may see the disease progress more quickly, since smoking cigarettes increases the retention of those fibers in the lungs.

Most people today won't be exposed to asbestos on a regular basis, but there are some industries that are at a higher risk. For instance, North Carolina shipyard workers, building construction workers, those who work to remove asbestos from older buildings or steam pipes, electricians, and others are more likely to be exposed to asbestos today. It's important that anyone who is going to be around these fibers has them contained, so they don't become airborne and lodge in the lungs.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Asbestos," accessed March 31, 2016

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